Monday, October 27, 2014

On Mortality

I’m going to ramble a little bit here… roll with me if you have the time.

Recently I had an experience that made me examine my fragile grip on life. I write about everything that happens in my life... so I feel like it would be cheating not to talk about this... even if what I have to say may sound all-too-familiar or even a little cliché. It wasn’t a profound awakening in a church… or a car accident… or the birth of a child… no. I had a heart attack. It happened suddenly, on a Saturday morning (the 18th of October) at home, with only my 7 year old daughter awake. It was the worst pain I’d ever felt, and preceded several days of floating in and out of consciousness while procedures and tests were performed. It kept me in the CCU for a week, and completely brought my life to a halt.

I’m 37 with bad genetics, a lot of stress, poor sleeping habits, and (until recently) a pack a day addiction to Camels. Death, it occurred to me, had been a very real possibility. It was as if some fictional reaper from a CW television show had decided to tap me on the shoulder… but then let me go on my way. I'd like to pretend that it was no big deal... that it was just a thing that happened, and it was in my past... an experience I could draw on... and not much more... but that's not true.

It shook me up, it shook up my family, it distressed those who know and care about me… but how it really impacted me… is still influencing me… that was the real surprise.

I had to examine how I feel about the subject of death, and it came out a little differently than I’d have imagined it would. I could spend time here telling you about my changes in diet, rest, and stress… about my ongoing rehab, and my increased fascination with how my children know me… but the difference I’m dealing with in my creative life has been the most fascinating to me.
I’ve started talking things out, a form of therapy I suppose, through fiction - letting my characters discuss the things that were on my mind and it’s led me to some dark places. It has also made me somewhat comfortable (how is that even possible, right?) with the idea of being gone.

These are two passages that I’ve worked on since this happened… I think they illustrate what I’m saying fairly well:

“Life is so fragile, so frail. Ending it… breaking it… there’s no magic in that. It’s simple, and easy, and takes little or no thought at all. Fixing what’s broken? That requires a spark of magic… a flicker of what some might call the divine.  True Magic, however, comes from unbreaking… from unending… from making the damage, the pain, or the death… not have happened. That can mean to a body, it can mean to a mind, an emotional core… or even to the very soul of a being. To undamaged a soul would be the strongest magic imaginable."
“Orpheus failed. That was the goddamned point. He did everything he could… he moved heaven and Earth, softened the hearts of the hardest of gods and in the end Eurydice stayed dead. Death has meaning. It is profound and it is forever. You flaunt that, and because of that I will always oppose you.”

Writing immortal characters (by way of ‘for instance’)… in paranormal fiction has shifted in its overall gravity for me… 

We (everyone) all live on beyond ourselves… I’ve been aware of that since I was a child and attended the funeral of a very beloved relative. We do that though what we leave behind… who we leave behind… marks we’ve left on the people and places and things in our live. Again, nothing I wasn’t aware of. I’ve been in love with Shakespear's Sister’s Hello (Turn Your Radio On)… and the lyric that always hit me the hardest was “Life is a strange thing… just when you think you’ve learned how to use it’s gone…”. I knew this was true.

I knew it like I know that Jupiter is out there… in space… in its orbit.  It’s a fact, but a fact with no reality for support. I believed these things were true, but now I had them hit me in the face.

Death is the result of life… and the sum of what we do while we are alive is shown through what we leave behind. I’m leaving three great kids… I’m leaving some words I’ve strung together here and there… and those whose lives I’ve touched. This matters to me a lot more than I had realized.

People are telling me to take it easy… to rest… but if anything this experience has led me to want to do more… to create more… to complete more. I want to leave a more full body of work behind me. Ultimately I guess that may be ego, or vanity… I just want to do everything now. I want people that were close to me, my family, my friends… my kids… to have something to point to and say “I knew the guy who did that” or “I was inspirational in that thing being made” or “I was a part of making that”. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person… but it certainly feels like I’m doing that whole ‘get busy living or get busy dying’ thing that Andy Dufresne talked about in Shawshank. 

I’m pushed, almost beyond myself, to write… to shoot… to create… and I feel almost reborn. It’s as though I was turned off and back on again so that I could free up my processes and focus on work I should have been doing instead of getting bogged down in the stress of day-to-day nothing… in bills and yard work… in car repairs and dinner plans... in grocery shopping and dirty dishes…

If I have anything to say, now… to all of you who are still reading this… to those who are still with me… it is this: Don’t let it take a heart attack… a stroke… a car wreck… cancer… tragedy… to focus you.

Find what you love… do it. All the time… with all you have. Live a life that you’re proud to look back at. Don’t waste time stressing the small stuff… and don’t pause or hold back because of what others think or say… or what they might think or say… live your life, with passion… and make your dreams real… (even if it sounds kinda Disney… or Hallmark…)

Life really is too short… make the most of every piece of every second. You don't have to believe me... it won't be any less true if you don't.

Just my two cents... take it for what it's worth... 



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